Prolotherapy is the injection of a proliferant solution into injured connective tissue (tendons, ligaments, and joints) which stimulates the body’s own natural wound healing cascade resulting in repair of the injured tissue, restored function, and a reduction in pain.
The History of Prolotherapy
The concept of poking and irritating injured tissue to initiate healing was employed by the Romans who used hot needles to repair the injured shoulders of gladiators. In the 1930’s, in the United States, osteopathic physician Earl Gedney, DO injected irritant solutions to treat lax (over-stretched) ligaments. He called his treatment “sclerotherapy”. George Hackett, MD, an American surgeon, used irritant solutions in the 1950’s to repair hernias and joint injuries. Gedney’s and Hackett’s treatments would eventually evolve into modern-day prolotherapy.
C. Everett Koop, MD, was Surgeon General of the United States under President Ronald Reagan. Dr. Koop was a big proponent of Prolotherapy, having experienced pain relief himself from this treatment. He provided Prolotherapy treatments to his patients.
“Not many physicians are aware of Prolotherapy, and even fewer are adept at this form of treatment. One wonders why that is so. In my opinion, it is because medical folks are skeptical and Prolotherapy, unless you have tried it and proven its worth, seems to be too easy a solution to a series of complicated problems that afflict the human body and have been notoriously difficult to treat by any other method. Another reason is the simplicity of the therapy: Injecting an irritant solution, which may be something as simple as glucose, at the junction of a ligament with a bone to produce the rather dramatic therapeutic benefits that follow.”
–C. Everett Koop, MD
How Many Treatments Will I Need?
Most patients need 6-8 treatments of Prolotherapy for a chronic injury. Initially, treatments are two weeks apart. Once the patient is seeing significant improvement, the treatment interval is extended. Most patients see significant improvement after three treatments and many patients see improvement after the first treatment.
Prolotherapy can be used for most ligament, tendon, and joint injuries. Therefore, prolotherapy can be used for injuries of the neck, back, TMJ, shoulders, elbows, wrists, hands, hips, pelvis, knees, ankles, and feet.
There are many prolotherapy solutions but the primary solution is a combination of concentrated Dextrose (a sugar) and Lidocaine. How can “sugar” heal injured tissues? The principle behind this treatment is that when this concentrated solution is injected into the tissue of a particular body part, the nearby cells in the body react to the concentrated solution by attempting to balance the concentration of the fluid inside the cells and outside the cells (a process called “osmosis”). This shift of fluids causes many of the surrounding cells to burst, spilling their contents into the body fluids in between individual cells. The body sees this as a new injury and triggers the body’s natural wound healing cascade to repair the damage. In this repair process, new connective tissue (ligament, tendon) is created. The new connective tissue is tighter and stronger, repairing the previously injured and lax ligament or tendon. Decreased laxity improves the function and stability of the body part involved, thereby reducing pain.
What are the risks of Prolotherapy?
Since the Prolotherapy solution used by Dr. Matson consists of a sugar and Lidocaine, very few people have allergies to this solution. As with any injection, including a tetanus shot or flu shot, there is always the risk of infection, nerve injury, allergic reaction, and very rarely death. However, Dr. Matson has never had a serious side effect from his Prolotherapy injections in the more than 24 years he has been providing this treatment to hundreds of patients. Prolotherapy is a safe procedure in the hands of an experienced Prolotherapist.